Cassandra's Dream

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Cassandra's Dream Movie Poster Image
Woody Allen scores with suspenseful adult drama.
  • PG-13
  • 2008
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A man takes advantage of his nephew's desperation to get him involved in a murder plot, and he doesn't appear to feel conflicted about it. Two brothers plot to kill someone; in this case, they do seem overcome with guilt and despair, especially one of them, who in the end makes a fateful decision. One of the brothers demeans his family's fairly humble financial state (and "borrows" money from the till without asking). He also has a habit of "borrowing" cars from the garage where his brother works so he can pretend to be rich. But the brothers do seem to watch out for each other (until one significant moment ...).


Implied violence, as when the camera tracks a duo's every move as they follow the man they're going to kill; at the last moment, the scene cuts away as they do the deed. A handmade gun is brandished about; brothers have a brutal fight in which they hit and push each other; some yelling at tense moments; much discussion of ways to "off" someone.


Sexual banter between couples; kissing and pawing (but no outright nudity). A woman appears to have difficulty staying faithful, at least in the beginning.


Some use of "damn" and "hell" and other mild forms of swearing, but nothing particularly strong.


A woman squeals with delight when her boyfriend buys her a designer bag; Hollywood and the movie business are discussed a few times; a few scenes clearly depict monied types who can dine out and drink in expensive establishments. Much discussion about the purchase of a boat; some characters seem to revere having money above all.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking in social settings, like restaurants, bars, and parties. One character seems to like drinking a little too much and has a problem with prescription drugs, too (viewers don't see him partaking, though he does ask for them when he needs some, and he and his girlfriend argue about his overuse). Some smoking, but not excessive.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that teens probably won't be interested in this Woody Allen drama, which has some mature themes -- namely, murder and how killing cannibalizes the soul. Lies build upon lies, and although the actual crime isn't shown explicitly, the lead-up to it is fairly detailed, including lots of discussion about how it will happen. Guns are brandished, too, and one character seems completely lacking in conscience. But in the end, a moral center is found, and the "punishment" meted out seems quite grim.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13-year-old Written bycolten97 October 10, 2012

Simply Brilliant...

** Comments indirectly reveal overall outcome of film **

I always think of Allen as an intimate Kubrick. Everyone is so quick to judge both filmmakers, and cri... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byBestPicture1996 September 28, 2013

Atypical Allen dramedy

While sites I've visited have labeled this a crime drama, I'd put it more in the dramedy section of Allen's work, along with the recent "Blu... Continue reading
Kid, 0 years old January 8, 2010

You have got to be kidding me

15+?????? Are you serious?
This is an incredible entry into drama from Woody Allen, very tame and you give it 15+?
Violence is implied, but rarely shown, sex... Continue reading

What's the story?

Life seems fairly idyllic for two English brothers in CASSANDRA'S DREAM. Ambitious Ian (Ewan McGregor) might have a chance at making some real money with a hotel venture, and soft-hearted Terry (Colin Farrell) has hit a winning streak at the track. But matters soon take a nightmarish turn. Ian falls for vampy, worldly actress Angela (Hayley Atwell) and, partly to impress her, wants out of his father's humble restaurant so he can finally join the big leagues and become a hotelier. And Terry racks up monstrous gambling debts he can't pay with his mechanic's salary. Money and salvation arrive in the form of the legendary Uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson), a self-made millionaire who bent some laws trying to make money off a deal and now needs his nephews to perform an unsavory deed: murder. Out of loyalty and desperation, they accept his proposal, but neither is prepared for how the other will react in the aftermath.

Is it any good?

Director Woody Allen has finally found his groove again. In Cassandra's Dream, Allen -- who lost his way in recent years with duds like Scoop and Melinda and Melinda -- makes a successful return to subjects that have repeatedly fascinated him: crime and punishment. He headed in that direction with Match Point, which itself was a retread of Crimes and Misdemeanors (arguably one of Allen's masterpieces). But while Match Point strained to be sophisticated and analytical, Cassandra's Dream is a lean, mean, taut machine.

Which isn't to say that the movie doesn't have flaws. For starters, characters often explain rather than banter. (Where, oh where, has Allen's complete ease with dialogue gone?) They're also drawn so much to type that it's comic -- in the beginning, Angela is such a man eater that she might as well have been feasting on human flesh. But there's no doubt that Allen teases out wonderfully layered performances from his actors, specifically Farrell (painfully tragic) and Wilkinson (icy and manipulative). And the movie doesn't suffer from dull spots -- suspenseful moments are played for maximum tension, while uncomfortable ones enhance the drama.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the film's take on what happens to a murderer in the wake of his crime. Do the reactions seem realistic or "Hollywood-ized"? Why is the movie industry fascinated with this subject? Are there lessons to be learned from that fascination in general -- or this movie specifically? What does this movie have in common with other Woody Allen films? How is it different?

Movie details

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